“Facts” from thin air in the CMA Chairman’s letter requesting greater powers?

March 8, 2019

(by Bruce Lyons) I recently posted a blog commenting on the CMA’s proposals for reform. I was sympathetic with the aims of eliminating unfair pricing and inefficient decision processes. However, I was highly critical of the CMA’s direction of travel and the worrying side effects of their proposals. I suggested two alternative proposals that would directly address the aims without the harm. In this short blog, I pick up two “facts” used by Lord Tyrie, Chairman of the CMA, to motivate the need for reform. These are particularly important because they relate to exactly the type of statistical evidence relied on by the CMA in its daily competition analysis: concentration and margins. Read the rest of this entry »


Why the CMA is wrong in its proposals for reform and what should be done instead

March 7, 2019

(by Bruce Lyons) The Chairman of the CMA, Lord Tyrie, has written a 44-page letter (including annex) to the Secretary of State for Business, Greg Clark, setting out a long list of legislative proposals.[1] Two motivations are given: “First, the growth of new and rapidly-emerging forms of consumer detriment, caused in part by the increasing digitalisation of the economy, requires more rapid intervention, and probably new types of intervention… Second, there are increasing signs that the public doubt whether markets work for their benefit.” I agree with the spirit of these points and that they require action. However, I disagree with some of the CMA’s key proposals. Lord Tyrie appears particularly frustrated with the lengthy appeals system which limits his ability to act firmly and swiftly. Unfortunately, the overall package of proposals would reverse hard-won progress in competition policy over the last 20 years and lead to a paternalistic, arbitrary and unrestrained Consumer Interest Authority. In this blog, I briefly explain some of my concerns. I then set out two alternative proposals that would more directly and appropriately address public concerns over unfair pricing and result in better decisions without prolonged appeals. Read the rest of this entry »


The deterrence value of competition policy can and should be measured

August 17, 2017

(by Steve Davies) In a post last year, I argued that it was time for competition economists, both academics and practitioners, to start seriously tackling one of the big unknowns: how much harm is deterred by Competition Law and the Competition Authorities (CAs)? In this blog I pull together some results from three recently completed papers on cartel deterrence. I believe that these importantly move forward our understanding of this great unknown, and merit exposure to a non-academic audience in a non-technical way.

We have three ‘headline’ results. Read the rest of this entry »


Should I always hire the best-ranked lawyer?

March 21, 2016

(by Chris Hanretty) Rankings, ratings and reviews are common in life.

They claim to tell us which are the best films, the best albums, even the best universities.

Ratings are particularly useful for credence goods — goods the quality of which we poor consumers can’t judge.

Law is a good example of a credence good. I might hire a lawyer to represent me in court. I might even attend the court hearing. But I’d have no way of telling whether the lawyer’s arguments were good or bad. If I knew which arguments were good or bad, I could probably have saved some money and represented myself.

It’s therefore no surprise to see that there are lots of rankings for lawyers in the UK. One company (Chambers & Partners) is particularly known for ranking barristers — the kind of lawyers who earn their crust standing up and arguing cases in court.

Does this mean that you should always try and get the best-ranked barrister to represent you? Read the rest of this entry »


Would Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister mean the end of Competition Policy?

August 17, 2015

(by Andreas Stephan) The UK’s Labour party is currently in the process of selecting a new leader. The front-runner, Jeremy Corbyn, may become Britain’s first socialist Prime Minister in a generation. This blog post considers what a Corbyn government could mean for competition policy. Read the rest of this entry »


Could Politicians Be Driving Up Energy Prices?

October 11, 2013

(by Andreas Stephan) We are once again seeing the familiar picture of one energy company announcing a significant price increase, no doubt soon to be followed by other major players in the industry. SSE is to raise gas and electricity prices by 8.2%, a figure that is three times the current rate of inflation and comes at a time when UK households are continuing to endure declining income in real terms. My colleagues, Catherine Waddams and Chris Hanretty have recently written on this blog about proposals by the Labour party to cap prices and abolish the regulator. However, there is also a possibility that statements made by politicians, intended to reduce prices, may actually be having the opposite effect. Read the rest of this entry »


‘The Hotel Stinks’: Online Reviews and Consumer Law

February 2, 2012

(by Daithí Mac Síthigh) Two stories in the news this week serve as useful reminders of the significance of consumer law for online review sites.  The subject of both reports is TripAdvisor, which was also the topic of a wry Channel 4 documentary late last year in the ‘Cutting Edge’ series (Attack of the Trip Advisors). Read the rest of this entry »